Libertarian History/Philosophy

Bob Poole Remembers Reason's Creator, Lanny Friedlander



Until last year, none of us at Reason Foundation knew whether Lanny Friedlander, the creator of Reason magazine, was even still alive. He had dropped out of sight in the mid-1970s, and none of us had ever heard from him as the magazine grew into a serious publication, initially under the auspices of Reason Enterprises and, since 1978, as the flagship publication of the Reason Foundation. But last year a former Foundation board member used various online search tools to find out that Lanny was still alive, but in a naval hospital on the East Coast.

I met Lanny in autumn 1969, when I went to Boston for Ayn Rand's annual lecture at the Ford Hall Forum. During the previous year I'd been a subscriber to the mimeographed Reason magazine he'd begun publishing in May 1968 as a student at Boston University. Via phone and letter, he'd persuaded me to research and write an article for it. The piece (calling for airline deregulation) appeared in the September 1969 issue, the first one to be typeset and offset-printed (and with my article as the cover story). The graphic design was fresh and clean, and the overall look was very professional. I was blown away and decided to visit Lanny while in Boston, with the idea of getting involved in publishing the magazine. Alas, my notes from that initial visit reflect dismay at this bright and creative but very disorganized young man. In my journal I wrote, "He doesn't have much interest in business details, and I'm not too impressed with his ability to make a financial success of it." I did not pursue the idea of getting involved in the business.

My assessment was borne out in 1970, when the magazine began appearing irregularly, and Lanny would call periodically to ask for money to keep it going. Rather than send money, my new friend Tibor Machan and I began brainstorming the idea of buying Lanny out, creating some sort of business to turn Reason into a serious national publication. Along with Manny Klausner and several others, we created Reason Enterprises as a publishing partnership for this purpose. Tibor, a philosophy PhD candidate, had a grant to organize a political philosophy conference, and that provided funds to fly Lanny to California, where we negotiated the acquisition. The deal included an initial six-month contract under which Lanny would continue as editor while the rest of us handled both marketing and production. Unfortunately, the working relationship with Lanny was very difficult, and the initial contract was not renewed.

Over the next year or two, libertarian friends back East reported that Lanny had moved to New York and gotten a job with a graphic design firm. He showed up occasionally at libertarian gatherings. Once in awhile we got a note from him, mostly related to things he'd seen in the magazine, but after awhile they stopped coming. Only recently did we learn that he'd subsequently joined the Navy, apparently after having broken up with a girlfriend. His obituary reports that he served on board the USS Forrestal "during the Vietnam War," which must have been during its closing years.

During all the years of Reason magazine's growth, I was dismayed that we never again heard from Lanny, and we all wondered whether he had met an untimely demise. Only yesterday (March 25) did I learn that Lanny had recently written (by hand) a short note to Reason science correspondent Ron Bailey commenting on one of his recent articles. Ron shared a photocopy of it, and it had the familiar look of hand-written notes from Lanny 30-odd years ago.

I'm filled with both gratitude and sadness at the news of Lanny's death. There would be no Reason magazine without Lanny's original work in creating it, so we are all very much in his debt. I'm glad that he lived to see it become the kind of national magazine he'd originally envisaged back in his student days at Boston University. But I'm sad that he apparently was never able to make full use of his design, writing, and editing talents.

Robert Poole is director of transportation at the Reason Foundation. He is a former editor of Reason magazine and a trustee of Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes this website. He lives in Florida.

For more memories of Lanny Friedlander from Bob Poole, Tibor Machan, Manny Klausner, and others, read "40 Years of Free Minds and Free Markets: An Oral History of Reason," which appeared in our December 2008 issue.

Lanny Friedlander's burial service will take place in Massachusetts on Monday, March 28. The service is being arranged by the Blake Funeral Home, whose site includes an online guest book.

NEXT: Lanny Friedlander, Founder of Reason Magazine, RIP

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  1. Thanks, Bob. Unfortunately, history is strewn with the lives of brilliant but undisciplined thinkers. Fortunately for all of us, you and Tibor and Manny were there to salvage the best parts and make them available to the world.

  2. Lanny sounds like exactly the sort of nutbar that political cults cater to, so it makes sense that he was a founding father of this pathetic little doctrinaire rag, but who really gives a fuck? It sounds like he ended up a big loser nobody.

    1. Then you should empathize with him, Edward. When you expire from an exploded heart while masturbating furiously in your basement while commenting here, they won’t find your body for days until your neighbors notice the smells of rotten meat and dead lice coming from your house. Well, more than usual, that is.

      1. Wait…it’s HIS basement? When did Eddie move out of mommy’s house?

        1. Where do you think the (“normal”) smell of rotting meat comes from?

          1. Such clever repartee! You guys are shining examples of the IQ deficit on the right.

            1. Hey look, the functional retard called us stupid! Isn’t that cute?

                1. He can type.

                  1. I had always assumed he used some sort of shitty speech-to-text program to post. Do you really think Edward can read?

                    1. I sort of picture him mashing the keyboard with his club-like hands.

                      We know he can’t read.

                    2. Something like this?

            2. And you have revealed (again) the true venality and intolerance of the left. Well played.

          2. His sister…?

      2. Once again, my friend, just brilliant.

    2. Max|3.26.11 @ 5:29PM|#
      “…It sounds like he ended up a big loser nobody….”

      This from a jackoff whose greatest claim to fame is offering ignorant lefty trolls.
      Ah, the humor!

    3. I realize this is par for the course for internet trolls (and this may be the first time I’ve ever responded to this one), but don’t you ever go to sleep at night wondering what kind of person you are to go to someone’s online obit and trash someone you’ve never met (and may never have heard of until today) who just passed away?

      Throwing stink bombs at regular commenters here is fine since they can (and do) defend themselves and the atmosphere here tends to be acerbic most of the time anyway. But this really sucks, man, and if you don’t know any better you should spend the next couple of days thinking about what you need to do to become a person who does. It shocks me that some folks lack even this modicum of common decency.

      63 is still too young to go. RIP Lanny.

      1. Well said.

      2. “don’t you ever go to sleep at night wondering what kind of person you are to go to someone’s online obit and trash someone you’ve never met (and may never have heard of until today) who just passed away?”

        Hear, hear. Well put.

    4. Gulp!*

      *Works every time.

    5. I’m actually glad Max comes on here to trash Lanny Friedlander.

      The fact Max does so only serves to show that Lanny created something that has gotten under the skin of sick, unthinking individuals like Max.

      Does anyone think, for a second, that anyone will go out of their way to utter a word, either bad or good, the day when Max’s sadistic heart stops beating?

      People are talking about Lanny, bad and good. That’s more than anyone will ever do for Max.

      So thanks Max, for proving not only your depravity, but also that the thing Lanny started still lasts, and still bothers idiots like you, as well as inspires others.

  3. It’s terrible that people might come to the comment section — people who might have known him, relatives who want to show their families about him — to leave an anecdote, or read an anecdote from a former acquaintance, or maybe hope for funeral and wake information, and they get Max acting like sociopath.

    Again, condolences to those that knew him or were influenced by him.

    1. Rock Action|3.26.11 @ 7:34PM|#
      “It’s terrible that people might come to the comment section –[…]and they get Max acting like sociopath.”

      Not sure. Max is exactly the sort of sub-human Lanny campaigned against. Consider its comments obvious evidence that Lanny’s efforts were just a start.

      1. I hope my life’s legacy will also be loathed by legions of Max-like cretins.
        RIP Lanny.

    2. Oh, and what do you mean “acting like”? That’s no act.

      1. Generosity. I don’t want to wrestle with it, so I won’t address it directly. But I really meant that. There’s funeral information in the post. It’s possible people are checking the comments for stuff like that.

  4. Wow, sounds like he was a pretty decent guy!

  5. I know what will cheer everyone up: Dick Dale.

    1. Works for me. Here’s some Pacific sunset for ya. They’re so happy, you can see it in their faces.…

    2. Miserlou by Dick Dale.

      1. Misirlou (dammit)

  6. Wow – even Anon Bot came to share his thoughts. Cool.

    Another nice article – thanks, Mr. Poole. I enjoyed your insight.

  7. As a contemporary of Bob Poole, I just want to offer condolences and thanks to Lanny, Bob and Tibor. Ideas and REASON are SO important.

  8. He did more with his life than most people ever did or will. Rest in peace, Mr. Friedlander.

  9. Yah, that dude was pretty cool when you think about it.

  10. Too fat to serve? Athlete dies after losing 85 pounds trying to fit in with the military’s weight regulations.…..after.html

    1. Even rather suspended blogwhoring activities for the remembrance threads,Greg-O. You obviously can’t show such restraint.

      1. It’s an important story and I want to get the word out. Got a problem with that?

        1. Yep, and I’ll say that you’re a tacky blogwhoring punk as well.

          1. If you think your insults mean anything to me you are sadly mistaken. Insults are cheap online, and I do not take them seriously.

            I’ll blogwhore as much as I like, you communist bastard. This is America, if you’re not selling something, why exist? Why get out of bed? Maybe you’d be better off living in Europe and surviving on welfare.

            We’re all salesmen, in fact, do you think the people at Reason work for free? You think this is a charity for them or some kind of volunteer opportunity? Don’t make me laugh, we’re all profiteers one way or another.

            1. I hope to shit that you’re cesar.

            2. Did you just compare the crap blog you’re peddling to Reason, really? You need a reality check, Greg-o.

              And if insults don’t matter then don’t respond to them, punk.

      2. I have become convinced that Greg is really Eric in disguise, using an filter to disguise his Tourette’s Syndrome.

    2. Hey Grego, is your chronic stupidity controllable through medication?

      1. If being politically incorrect is a disease, I don’t want no cure. Now why don’t you go and kiss Obama’s ass, I’m sure he misses you.

  11. RIP.

  12. Wonderful post.

    I guess, in a way, Reason started off as a kind of samizdat.

    I think a book about the beginnings of the magazine and the other nascent libertarian organizations of 1960s would make fascinating reading.

  13. Though not exactly what you’re looking for, Reason contributor Brian Doherty’s Radicals For Capitalism is similar.

    1. In reply to Colin.

    2. Good read.

  14. helluva guy. More influential than most can hope, good on him. For a magazine called Reason he sure, well he created the durned thing. Amazing!

    And what a legacy. Will live on, hopefully catch on ever more. Yeah!

  15. Thanks, Bob, for the tribute. I knew Lannie through my correspondence with him in the days before he founded Reason: and I remember getting a long distance phone call — my very first! — from him when the first issue was ready to roll. We were both very excited about the cover, which was going to be printed, not mimeoed, and, of course, there was no question about whose image was going to be on the cover!

    Lanny was a major player in the second generation of post-war libertarians, who turned away from their rightist roots, split with organized conservatism, and launched the modern libertarian movement.

    Lanny’s passing, so close to the recent passing of Dave Nolan, is an occasion to reflect on what that generation of libertarians has wrought, to evaluate and honor it.

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